Though Christian McCaffrey hasn’t yet been a member of the San Francisco 49ers for a calendar year, the former eighth-round pick out in the 2018 NFL draft knew he’d become a part of something special immediately after he arrived in Santa Clara, California, in October of 2022. Making an offseason appearance on the “Bussin’ With the Boys” podcast during media week before Super Bowl 57, McCaffrey described just how special the Niners’ locker room felt when he arrived in a mid-season trade from the Carolina Panthers.
“For me personally, I came in the middle of the year not knowing what was going on,” McCaffrey said via NBC Sports Bay Area. “I knew people but didn’t know people, which was a weird experience. But you could just tell — I think there was 22 guys from the [Super Bowl LIV] team that are still on the team, so they set a culture and a standard that have been there for a while. I was just pumped up to join them.”
While McCaffrey had plenty of individual success in his NFL career, having been named to the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro list during his exemplary 2019 season, seeing the organizational success within the 49ers locker room was a notable change for the Stanford product, as he only appeared in one playoff game as a member of the Panthers.
“They’re so close, man. You can tell they’ve been through some s–t together,” McCaffrey added. “So when I stepped in there it was like just do your job, you don’t have to do anything else but your job.”
Do his job McCaffrey did, as the sixth-year pro finished out the season with 1,139 rushing yards and 741 receiving yards on the way to his second Pro Bowl appearance. If McCaffrey can turn in similar numbers in 2023, it will go a long way to justify the compensation the 49ers surrendered to Carolina for his services.
The San Francisco 49ers got a great player in Christian McCaffrey
Speaking with Adam Peters at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, Matt Barrows of The Athletic asked the 49ers’ assistant GM how the team will be able to overcome their lack of first and second-round draft picks in 2023. While Barrows would certainly like to have as many high picks as possible, he acknowledges that to acquire premium players like McCaffrey, sometimes you have to give good picks away.
“Well, that’s the only way we can look at it,” Peters said. “We’re picking where we’re picking. And we’ve gotten great players. I mean, we got Christian (McCaffrey) for the picks we gave up. So it’s our job to find guys. And we have a lot of picks. It’s not like we don’t have a lot of picks. We think we’re getting 10 picks. The compensatory picks haven’t been given out yet. We don’t know exactly where they are or how many there will be. But we’re shooting for about 10. So we’re going to have a chance to get some good players.”
For a team like San Francisco in 2022, surrendering future draft compensation for win-now firepower made sense, as the team was projected by many to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 57, and Kyle Shanahan’s team ultimately came just one game short of accomplishing that feat. It’s not on Peters, John Lynch, and the rest of the 49ers’ front office to find complementary pieces to help replace the team’s outgoing free agents and keep things potent into 2023.
Christian McCaffrey was Initially Angry to be Traded by the Panthers
Elsewhere in his interview on “Bussin’ With the Boys,” McCaffrey was asked about how he felt about being traded and let it be known that Panthers GM Scott Fitterer let him know that he didn’t expect to move the sixth-year Stanford product, at least until the season went off the rails and he had a change of heart.
“For me, I never thought I’d get traded. I thought I was a Panther forever,” McCaffrey said via Panthers Wire. “I’m like, ‘I bought a house there, this is home.’ And I’d heard the rumors in the offseason. So, obviously, I called the GM [Scott Fitterer] I’m like, ‘Hey, man, I just need to hear it from you. Any truth?’ And he was super honest. He’s like, ‘Look, absolutely not. We don’t wanna do this. But, we’ll listen to everything.”
Listen they did, and in the end, the 49ers outbid multiple other teams, including their eventual NFC Championship opponents, the Philadelphia Eagles, to secure McCaffrey’s services. How did McCaffrey feel about the deal? Fortunately, he answered that question too.
“It’s so weird,” McCaffrey said. “It’s a weird deal because there’s so many emotions, and the first emotion is probably anger. Like, ‘Man, you guys don’t want me anymore.’ Like, that’s really what it is. You can call it what it is. ‘Well, they got a lot for you.’ It’s like, nah—you think you’re better off without me. That’s what it is.”
In the end, McCaffrey appears happy to be a member of the 49ers, and San Francisco appears happy to have him, so ultimately, this trade appears to have gone down as a win-win for both parties.